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Proceedings of 2010 IEEE 17th International Conference on Image Processing September 26-29, 2010, Hong Kong

Adaptive Tri-Direction Edge Detection Operators based on the Spiral Architecture

Sonya Coleman, 1Bryan Gardiner, 2Bryan Scotney
School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster, Magee, BT48 7JL, Northern Ireland
School of Computing and Information Engineering, University of Ulster, Coleraine, BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland

ABSTRACT [4]. However, to date, only a few operators have been

We present a general approach to the computation of developed specifically for use on hexagonal image
adaptive tri-directional operators for use on hexagonal pixel- structures, e.g. [2], and in particular, the spiral architecture
based images, based on the spiral architecture. We show that has not been used as the developmental structure for
the use of Gaussian basis functions within the finite element processing operators.
method provides a framework for a systematic design In this paper we present a design procedure for the
procedure for operators that are adaptive to spiral development of hexagonal tri-directional derivative
neighbourhoods through the use of an explicit scale operators, based on the spiral architecture, that can be
parameter. We evaluate the proposed operators using applied directly to hexagonal images. The structure of each
simulated hexagonal images and provide comparative results spiral operator corresponds to a layer ( O ) in the spiral
with the use of traditional rectangular operators. architecture, and therefore each spiral operator contains 7 O
point values. We show that only one operator (x-directional
Index Terms—hexagonal images, spiral architecture derivative) needs to be computed, and the other two
directional operators can then be obtained via appropriate
1. INTRODUCTION rotation.
Traditionally, images are captured and displayed using
rectangular pixels, and several algorithms have been 2. IMAGE REPRESENTATION
developed for processing such images. Recently there has We represent the hexagonal image by a spiral array of
been an increased interest in using hexagonal pixels for samples of a continuous function u of image intensity on a
image representation for many reasons, including their domain : . Figure 1 represents part of a hexagonal image
ability to represent curved structures better than the tradition with nodes placed in the centre of each hexagonal pixel.
use of square pixels. Additional advantages of the hexagonal These nodes are the reference points for the development of
image structure include both spatial and spectral advantages: tri-directional derivative operators using an element based
equidistance of all pixel neighbours and improved spatial method. Interconnecting pixel nodes produces edges that
isotropy of spectral response. Pixel spatial equidistance form triangular elements, i.e. finite elements. This creates a
facilitates the implementation of circular symmetric kernels mesh of equilateral triangular elements that overlays the
that is associated with an increase in accuracy when image domain, as illustrated in Figure 1.
detecting edges, both straight and curved [1, 7]. In addition, z y
recent work has highlighted the advantages of omni-
directional feature extraction [3], and in particular, Paplinski
[6] has introduced tri-directional feature extraction on
traditional rectangular pixel-based images. The use of a
hexagonal image structure naturally facilitates tri-directional
feature extraction by introducing three natural axes along x
which directional derivative operators may be computed.
In [9], Sheridan introduced a unique addressing system,
known as the spiral architecture, that addresses each
hexagonal pixel with a single co-ordinate address, rather
than the two co-ordinate address scheme typically used with
rectangular image structures. The introduction of this single
addressing scheme makes the spiral architecture an Figure 1: Spiral image representation
appropriate structure for real-time image processing of As a hexagonal image can currently only be obtained by
hexagonal images. Using spiral addressing, spiral addition resampling a standard rectangular pixel-based image, the re-
and spiral multiplication, methods have been created for sampling technique used in this paper is a combination of
image processing operations such as translation and rotation the approaches in [5, 13]. As in [5], we initially represent

978-1-4244-7994-8/10/$26.00 ©2010 IEEE 1961 ICIP 2010

each original rectangular pixel by a 7x7 sub-pixel block. I i is thus a "tent-shaped" function with support restricted to
Then, following [11], we cluster the sub-pixels to form a small spiral neighbourhood centred on node i consisting of
hexagonal pixels throughout the image. only those elements that have node i as a vertex. We then
may approximately represent the image u over a spiral
neighbourhood : iO by a function
In recent work [2], we have shown how a finite element
based approach can be used to create adaptive hexagonal U ¦U I i i (2)
operators based on the construction of two independent
directional derivative operators aligned in the x- and y- in which the parameters ^U ` j are the sampled image
directions using simple nearest neighbour scaling. Here we intensity values. In this paper the spiral neighbourhood
present tri-directional operators, i.e. three hexagonal structure follows the structure of the spiral architecture, and
operators that are aligned along the x-, y- and z- hexagonal hence the Layer 1 and Layer 2 operators have the 7-point
axes and the operator neighbourhood structure is based on and 49-point structures as illustrated in Figure 3.
the spiral architecture. The tri-directional operators can be Layer 2
easily developed as only one operator needs to be computed: 22 23

say, the x- directional operator. This operator can then be 12 13 21 20 24 Layer 1

rotated by 60 $ and 120 $ to obtain the y- and z- directional 11 10 14 26 25 32 33

derivative operators respectively. Such rotation is not 16 15 2 3 31 30 34

possible when we construct Cartesian based operators on the 62 63 1 0 4 36 35
hexagonal image structure. Redundancy exists between the
61 60 64 6 5 42 43
three operator masks of a tri-directional operator, allowing,
for example, the x-directional operator mask to be computed 66 65 52 53 41 40 44

as a combination of the other two operator masks using the 51 50 54 46 45

relationship x y  z . This is not considered to be a major 56 55

weakness of the operator design as this relationship

Figure 3: Layer 1 and Layer 2 of the Spiral Architecture
facilitates the implementation of Cartesian axes operators if 1 2
required by appropriate combination of the tri-directional corresponding to spiral operator neighbourhoods : i and : i
masks. It should be noted that, although the hexagonal respectively
structure naturally contains three axes, we only ever use two As we are only concerned initially with the development of
axes in the co-ordinate system in order to ensure a unique a x-directional derivative operator, a weak form of the first
representation. Hence, we have chosen to work with the x- order x-directional derivative is obtained by considering
and y- axes, providing a co-ordinate system as shown in only the x derivative term, multiplying it by a test function
Figure 2. v  H 1 , and integrating on the spiral image domain : iO to
 1 , 1 0 ,1 give
³ wx vd: i
E (u ) (3)
e2 : iO

e3 e1 In the finite element method a finite-dimensional subspace

 1,0 i 0 ,0 1,0 x S h  H 1 is used for function approximation. Our design
procedure incorporates a finite-dimensional test space
e4 e6 TVh  H 1 that explicitly embodies the parameter V , related
e5 to the Layer O , enabling the development of adaptive
derivative operators. Hence, we use a test function \ iO that
0 ,1 1,1
is restricted to have support over the spiral operator
Figure 2: Two axes hexagonal co-ordinate system
neighbourhood : iO . The test function is then used in the
4. OPERATOR DESIGN weak form of the first derivative operator providing the
For the derivation of the primary operator, the x-directional functional
operator, with any node i we associate a piecewise linear wu
E iO (U ) ³ wx \
i d: iO (4)
basis function I i which has the properties :i O

­1 at node i To illustrate the implementation of the Level 1 first order

Ii ® (1) spiral operator, consider the Level 1 spiral structure in
¯0 at node j z i
Figure 3. Here the spiral neighbourhood covers a set of 6

triangular elements ^e m ` , (as illustrated in Figure 2), where Layer 1 and Layer 2 hexagonal spiral neighbourhood
operators (see Figure 3), which are approximately equivalent
a test function \ iO is associated with the central node i and
in size to the 3x3 and 7x7 conventional rectangular
shares common support with the six neighbouring basis operators respectively. Therefore, the two hexagonal
functions I i . Hence E iO (U ) can be computed over the six operator sizes will be denoted as S1 and S 2 throughout the
elements in the spiral neighbourhood : iO by substituting the remainder of this paper.
image representation (equation (2)) into the functional
E iO (U ) , which yields For performance evaluation, we create hexagonal pixel-
N based images, as described in Section 2 and compare the
E iO (U ) ¦ K OU ij i (5) Layer 1 and Layer 2 operators from our proposed approach
i 1
with the traditional derivative operators [8] applied directly
to standard square-based images (denoted as Sq3 and Sq7,
K ijO ¦k m ,O
ij (6) respectively).
m | e m  : iO S2 Sq7 S1 Sq3

m ,O
and k ij is the element integral
wI j 0.8

kijm , O ³ wx
\ iO d :iO (7)

The test functions \ i used in this operator design are a set
of Gaussian basis functions \ iO , i 1,..., N , of the form

¨ x  xi 
2 1

y  y i 2  z  z i 2 ·¸ (8) 0.2
¨ 3 ¸
¨ ¸
¨ 2V 2 ¸
1 ¨ ¸
\ iO e © ¹ 0
1 5 10 20 50 100 No Noise
2SV 2

As k ijm , O involves a Gaussian function, numerical integration (a) 45$ Oriented edge
is used to approximate the operator integral. On completion S2 Sq7 S1 Sq3

of the integration, the primary x-directional spiral operator,
equation (9), is constructed by finite element assembly to
compute the gradient operator along the x-directional axis.
This spiral operator is denoted by S1x , with co-efficient 0.6
values of a and b being 0.144 and 0.288 respectively.

ª a a º 0.4
x « »
S1 « b 0  b» (9)
«¬ a a »¼ 0.2

By rotating the co-efficients of the x-directional operator

anti-clockwise by 60 $ and 120 $ , the y- and z- directional 1 5 10 20 50 100 No Noise
operators can be readily obtained respectively as (b) Horizontal edge
ª a b º ª b a º Figure 4. Figure of Merit results comparing the tri-directional spiral
« » « »
S1 y  a 0  a S1 z «  a 0  a » (10) operators with equivalent standard use of square operators
« »
«¬ b a »¼ «¬ a b »¼ In order to accurately measure the performance of the spiral
When calculating the gradient response for tri-directional gradient operators, we have modified the well-known Figure
derivative operators, redundancy is introduced due to the of Merit technique to accommodate the use of hexagonal
relationships by rotation between the three operators. pixel-based images. Figure 4 shows that the proposed S1
Therefore, by directly using only operators S x and S y , the tri-directional spiral operator has increased accuracy over
gradient magnitude equation [10] for tri-directional the equivalent square 3u 3 operator (Sq3) in all evaluated
operators is represented as edge directions, and S 2 has similar performance to Sq7,
2 with the greatest improvement seen in the case of very high
G ( S x ) 2  ( S y ) 2  S x .S y ) (11) noise levels. Further visual comparison of the tri-directional
adaptive operators is presented in Figure 5, where we show
In this paper, two operator sizes are illustrated, namely the the Lena image, both the original and the re-sampled

We have presented a design procedure for first order tri-
directional derivative operators, developed for use on
hexagonal images. Here, the operator structure is based on
the spiral architecture, where each operator size corresponds
to a layer in the spiral architecture. The development of the
tri-directional operator is presented with only one operator
mask needing to be calculated, and the remaining two masks
found by 600 and 1200 anti-clockwise rotation. Although it
appears at first that the operator structure presented offers
(a) Spiral image (b) Original image only coarse scale processing, fine scale processing can be
readily obtained via the use of the virtual spiral architecture
[12] that works at sub-pixel level.
Using the Figure of Merit, we present performance
evaluation for our operator framework and we present visual
comparison of operator output responses. The performance
evaluation and visual output combined with the fact that a
hexagonal pixel image representation contains 13.5% less
pixels than the equivalent rectangular pixel image
representation [5], makes hexagonal pixel based images
promising for real-time imaging.
(c) S1 (d) Sq3
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